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Author Topic: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter  (Read 2778 times)

taliesyn427

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Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« on: August 06, 2010, 02:06:56 PM »
Hi,

Just back from an interesting trial test with my loaded bicycle, having wild camped and met great former tourer through warmshowers.org, it appears that my initial idea of 9 months to reach Kunjerab pass -KKH- before it's closed from Netherlands  would be rather a sprint leaving me no time to meet people, enjoy the scnery and leading me too break -myself, the bike, my motivation-
So I am now considering leaving earlier, which would involve leaving in November or January...
thus it involves cycling Europe in winter, sure I will experience cold central european and mountainous weather.
Is it a good idea? - it's my first long trip-
any tips-tricks-suggestions from advanced tourers here? I'm a bit confused :)

thanks in advance
François

petervanglabbeek

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Re: Start touring winter
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2010, 04:14:36 AM »
Hi Francois,
I have two stories from friends who crossed the Balkans in winter. One couple got stuck with a Serbian family when temperatures dropped to -25 for some weeks and roads were too icy to cycle. Another friend, Beat Heim, once left Switzerland on the first of January. I don't think he encountered big problems. He made it to Hongkong in exactly one year.

Out of my own experience, last winter my girlfriend and me did a 2 week tour in Austria and Slovenia the end of November. Most mountain passes were still open, we had to push through snow for a few hours on some of them, but the weather was ok. beautiful (but very short) sunny days, with max temp around 0 degrees, nights around -10C. As soon as we reached the coast near Triest, it was around 15 degrees during the day. But as you might remember, just before Christmas snow hit all of Europe and stayed for a few months.
I think you can cross Europe all winter, but days are very short and you have to stick to main roads, as small roads are not made ice-free. I am not sure how the river bike paths are. Maybe the Rhine-Danube route stays open all year?
I suggest you to leave already end September, make some good distance in the first two weeks following the Rhine. October is generally a good month for the Alps with stable weather. And than you can join us  :)
Peter
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Stephane

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2010, 06:29:02 PM »
Francois,

My wife and I did a 5-year bicycle trip around the world. When we first started, we were thinking of traveling for 2 years.  Our trip obviously morphed into something much longer than we had originally thought.  So it is good to plan in some extra time and to leave with an open schedule, if at all possible, in order to maximize the chances of having a positive experience. So I think you are on the right track.

We traveled through Central Europe during the winter. In fact, we spent the whole of winter in Europe. Because it was very cold, we spent a lot of time with locals, including 6 weeks with a family in Belgrade. It was towards the end of the winter, and we were getting tired of the cold weather. Biking and camping in the cold is not easy and is not comfortable. However, it is feasible and it actually has some advantages. The biggest advantage we found is that you will spend a lot of time with locals, who ask you in out of the cold.  The people in central and eastern Europe are especially welcoming and often ask you into their homes at the end of the day for a warm meal and a warm bed.  If it is getting on towards nighttime and no one has yet approached you, you can simply knock at someone's door and ask to camp in their backyard, and the next thing you know, you find yourself around the family dining table, sharing stories and a good time, a warm meal, and even a bedroom for the night.  Most of the truly wonderful encounters that we had with local people came about during the wintertime, and gave us some of our best memories.  Traveling really takes on a special meaning when you are having a rough time of it and people help you out.

This is an article you might find useful:

Bicycle Touring and Camping in Cold Weather

Happy tailwind,

Stephane
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 10:51:55 AM by Stephane »
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taliesyn427

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2010, 03:46:05 AM »
Peter, Stephane, Nice to hear your experiences :)

I see a good thing, yes it will be tough, but first of all I'm kindof looking for it and second I have no choice - but postponing my trip, which means looking for a job to which my whole being screams ¨NO¨-

Plus it will sort of get me by necessity out of my shyness to go to people and ask for their help, which per se I find pretty nice.

I think now about crossing from the NL to Prague, then reaching Vienna and following the Donau, to get someway to Greece and Istanbul... I'm problaby still overplanning ;)

I'll leave the earliest in November as I have engagments till October.

François

Stephane

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2010, 05:50:17 AM »
Francois, you're welcome. Make sure you let us know how is your trip going...
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taliesyn427

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2010, 12:11:22 PM »
Hi,

I decided to leave around 3rd November, option giving me the most time -to relax, meet people and enjoy-, and also avoiding to start in the coldest time of the year. Peter, I bet we'll have chances to meet on the eastern way!

Francois

Crystal

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2010, 02:17:53 PM »
Bon voyage Francois! Smart choices... you'll love it! Let us know how it is going :)

petervanglabbeek

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2010, 02:52:44 PM »
well, I am still in the UK, already 3 month behind scedule, if there ever was one.
against my own advise I might be crossing Europe in the coldest months myself.
Peter
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taliesyn427

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2010, 05:03:09 PM »
HI there,

I am on the road since two weeks already. Had relatively cold, still positive though, some rain long enough to become insensible as long as I stay on the bicycle, some head wind, and also rain with cold with headwind.
and always sunny Sundays!!
The pump of my MSR whisperlite international broke after 4 days, due to the pump cup which was loose, I brike it while reapiring :(... I do not appreciate to have to service my stuff so early.

Greetings from Leipzig to all this great community and the good tips you gave.

François

tony

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2010, 05:17:30 PM »
Leipzig in November, that's brave! Where are you heading to? cold headwinds are not fun, are they? I don't mind rain or even snow, I just hate cold headwind. Good thing you have sunny days. Anyway, keep up the good spirit, we're here to support you!  ;D (I wish I was on my saddle too right now!).
Sorry to hear about your pump, I hate to have these kind of problems on the orad. I have been using the whisperlite for several years and I never had any probelms with it (so far so good) -  just the regular maintenance stuff. But now that you mentioned it, It reminds me that Friedel from travellingtwo pointed that specific issue when she did the review of the Primus Omnifuel. I quote: "As soon as you pick up this stove (the Primus Omnifuel), you realise the quality construction. The pump is made of metal, with a leather plunger on the inside (compared to plastic and rubber for the MSR Whisperlite). It feels extremely robust. We have no doubt that it would stand up to a lot of wear and tear."
Anyway, what are you going to do to get that fixed? good luck to you...

taliesyn427

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2010, 09:15:02 AM »
HI,

Material problems are solved, a friend shipped to Prague his MSR stove pump, an older model. This plastic thing.. definitely would tqake care if I were to take another stove now. I heard wonderful things about the Trangia stove as well. But I am not willing to buy another stove knowing the prices. Material issues are there to learn about your gear, better than any other way. It's annoying but who doesn't want troubles better stays home.

I have left Prague, now I experience bigger knee pains. I have not listened and cared enough of them. Big mistake.The cold weather doesn't help. I am changing my plans from reaching the Danube a.s.a.p. to finding a doctor at the next step, in České Budějovice.
I am still learning, and I will get through.

Greetings
François

Stephane

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2010, 10:55:32 AM »
I don't want to scare you but you have to be seriously careful when it comes to knee pain. Steve Fabes from http://www.cyclingthe6.com had to fly back home, put his journey on stand by, and get knee surgery because of knee pain (which turned into serious knee injury).

When you experience knee pain, the number one rule is to stop and rest.

Here is an article I just wrote about Knee Pain, I hope you'll find it usefull:

Bicycle Touring and Knee Pain - Causes & Treatment
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 10:49:18 AM by Stephane »
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City Bike Tallinn

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2010, 02:08:40 AM »
I definitely recommend some kind of winter tires to use.
I lie and cycle in Estonia, Tallinn and ride all year, occasionally do also longer trips.
In winter the road conditions can be really tricky.
For last 3 winters I have chosen Schwalbe Ice spiker tires and they are really good, especially the above 360 spikes in the single tire versions. The grip is good. 

petervanglabbeek

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2010, 06:21:01 AM »
Hi Francois,
I also advise you to stop for a few weeks if you still have knee pains.
It is very common with beginning cycle tourists and can turn into serious injury.
If you start cycling again, use low gears, lower your speed and shorten your daily distance to 50km/day.
Take this pain very seriously!
Peter
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taliesyn427

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Re: Europe - Bicycle touring in the winter
« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2010, 08:21:54 PM »
Very useful hints from all of you.
tires:
leaving Prague I changed the back tire  -a Marathon Dureme, no deep profile- by a cheap MTB tyre, gruiipping better in snow. will not expense more for tyres as I cycle on roads alwayssnowplow, gravel sand or salt go around.

knees., that was a real danger
I kept cycling, reducing my daily distance to 30-50km, taking more days of break, caring about regularly drinking -water freezes in my bottles!! not pushing on the knees. My goal was to get to the Donau and avoid being stuck by heavy winter conditions in Czech Republik. Whether it is wise or not, I was conscious of the risks. Now that I am in Between Linz and Vienna, I am releaved: I can follow the Danube to the Black Sea. I Currently take rest at my hosts, working with them. using my hands more than my feet...

I wish you happy days for the end of the year - you know: merry new year and happy christmas-. From a family/community near the Danube, in Austria

Francois